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Don’t simply seek good news from doctors, seek clear answers and if needed, ask for a second opinion

When you visit your doctor or are sent to see a specialist about an illness or health matter of concern, what is it that you are really looking for from them? It’s a question all should ask themselves before heading to see a medical professional, because I suspect the majority of people would simply say they visit hoping to hear good news.

Visiting a GP or consultant fearing the worst, patients can simply forget to ask the relevant key questions about what has been causing their condition, as they simply want to hear them dismiss their fears over a potentially serious illness as irrational, and get back to life as normal.

Of course, good news is the ideal outcome, but as specialists in handling cases of medical negligence and misdiagnosis, far too often we see people given good news only to find out at a later stage that their fears and worries had actually been justified, and that the problem causing them to be unwell had been missed.

Not only that, the delay in diagnosis causes their condition to worsen, making it less likely that future treatment will be successful.

It is with that in mind that we’d encourage people to seriously consider their approach when visiting a medical professional with real concerns over their health. Quite simply, as a patient, you shouldn’t go simply looking for good news. Nor should you be dismissive of what your GP or specialist says, as in the vast majority of cases, they will be right and recommend a suitable course of action.

However, you should always visit a GP or consultant looking for answers which are based on clearly communicated medical expertise and investigation, and which completely reassure you of all of your concerns.

You should ask your GP or consultant to go over your condition and symptoms with you, explain what could be causing them, the tests they have (or perhaps haven’t done) and why, the diagnosis and prognosis, and why they have suggested the actions they have.

We know that medical misdiagnosis can have life-changing consequences, so if you are afraid to ask questions and demand fully explained answers, make sure you take someone with you to an appointment who will.

If you are still unhappy, then asking for a second opinion is something you could consider.

Specialist failed to test for bowel cancer despite clear symptoms

We recently concluded a legal compensation case in which a grandmother, who had all the red flag warning signs of bowel cancer and did the right thing in going to her GP, came home from a resulting appointment with a consultant ‘like she had won the lottery’ because of the good news she’d been given.

The lady, who was 65 at the time, was told she had Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a common condition which does not pose a serious threat to health. She was given tablets and returned home happy.

Sadly, that diagnosis was made by a specialist without sending her for a colonoscopy, and by the time she had routine screening two years later, she was found to have cancer, which was terminal.

She died a year later, with independent medical experts concluding that had the cancer been found and treated when she first saw the specialist, she would have lived another 10 years at least alongside her loving family.

It is a heart-breaking case, and one which has left the lady’s devastated husband and other family members feeling not only angry with the specialist who let her down so badly, but also deeply regretting not having demanded a colonoscopy be carried out, as they still had concerns when she returned home without tests being done.

In what circumstances should I ask for a second opinion from a doctor or specialist?

When investigating cases of medical negligence on behalf of our clients, our teams at Hudgell Solicitors seek leading experts in the relevant area of care to give their opinions on the case from the patient’s records and medical notes.

Such evidence is key to whether negligence is proved or admitted, with cases often involving us consulting a number of fully independent experts to gain their opinions on the treatment received.

However, as a patient, you don’t need legal representation to ask for a second opinion, and although there is no legal right to receive one, it is actually very rare that a healthcare professional will refuse to refer you for one. A family member or carer can also request this on your behalf with your consent.

As the patient, you yourself will know when you feel unhappy with a diagnosis from a doctor or specialist, and this could be a time to consider asking for a second opinion, especially if you feel your doctor is not discussing it with you in enough detail, or making it fully understandable.

Equally, if you are not happy or convinced about the treatment being recommended, you should discuss this further with the GP or consultant, and if still not happy, seeking a second opinion could again be an option.

What should I be aware of when seeking a second opinion?

Seeking a second opinion may mean you have to wait to be seen by somebody new, and you may need to travel to see a consultant at a different hospital, so this could lead to a delay in your treatment, something which would need serious consideration if diagnosed with a serious condition.

Also, if you’d like a second opinion after seeing a consultant, you will need to return to your GP and ask them to refer you to a new consultant. They will be informed that they are providing a second opinion, and will be sent relevant details such as any x-rays previously taken.

Don’t have doubts, get all the answers you or your loved one needs

Medical misdiagnosis can impact upon a person, their family and loved ones for years after the event, so it is important as the family, or friend of a loved one, to make sure they have asked the relevant questions and are fully reassured over their condition.

Don’t leave doubts in your mind, whether it be over your health and treatment of that of someone close to you, and don’t simply seek the ‘good news’. Seek answers to all matters that are playing on your mind, and if extra medical or legal opinions would help reassure, take up that option for extra support.

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26/07/2016 No Comments

New guidelines for care of children with complex health problems must lead to improved standards across country

new born baby holding hand

A Care Quality Commission (CQC) review has highlighted how major improvements are needed to deliver consistently high levels of care nationally, in both hospitals and within the community, for newborn babies and infants with complex health problems.

The review focused on problems before birth, such as the detection of health problems during pregnancy through screening and anomaly scans, the diagnosis and management of newborn babies with deteriorating medical conditions, and the management of infants requiring respiratory support in the community.

It drew on a sad case from 2001, in which baby Elizabeth Dixon was born prematurely, suffering brain damage as a result of missed high blood pressure. She died shortly before her first birthday in after a failure to correctly maintain her tracheostomy tube.

Many concerns were raised over aspects of Elizabeth’s care, and this review was undertaken to consider whether these areas of care have improved nationally since, or whether further improvements still need to be made.

CQC findings make concerning reading over continued risks to hundreds of babies’ health

Sadly, the findings have made concerning reading, in that a significant risk to hundreds of babies and children has been highlighted due to inconsistent practices and a lack of clear guidance on treatment nationally.

In its summary, the CQC said it had ‘found variation nationally, potentially due to the lack of national guidance about the management of at-risk babies and infants, and inconsistent processes to communicate information from one specialty team to another.’

Professor Ted Baker said the lack of clear guidance spread to packages of support for families with children who were ventilated at home, highlighting ‘serious inconsistencies’, not only in the way they were designed, but also with regards to discharge arrangements and the level of training and skills of some of the staff looking after those children.

As experts in handling cases of birth negligence, we at Hudgell Solicitors fully understand the difficulties many families face when a child has complex medical needs. We know how daunting it can often be for parents when liaising with the various medical professionals to reach the correct diagnosis and access the most appropriate services.

For many parents, it must have felt they were being badly let down by the medical profession when they have needed support, and clarity, the most.

New guidance protects patients and medical professionals from life-threatening errors

Too often in our work as medical negligence claims specialists, we see life-threatening errors made because there simply has not been clear enough guidance follow for medical staff to follow with confidence.

Break-down in communication is also a common problem, leading to completely avoidable errors being made. Quite simply, nothing in healthcare should be left to chance, and strict policies and procedures should be in place to ensure all patients – no matter what age or in what circumstance – receive the best quality care.

Such strict policies and clear guidelines not only protect patients, but also importantly the medical staff themselves, who in all circumstances want to provide the best care, but are often let down by poor direction.

In our experience, it is certainly the case that inconsistencies in the standard of care being provided nationally, or breakdowns in communication, can result in a poor outcome.

It is with that in mind that we are pleased to see these issues relating to this very vulnerable group of patients being highlighted in this review.

It is also pleasing to see it has resulted in firm plans for new clear guidelines to be developed, which should lead to improvements in the standard of care, and less avoidable serious illnesses and deaths across the UK.

The recommendations have been supported by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the British Association of Perinatal Medicine (BAPM).

Let’s hope today marks the start of better care and support for young people who need medical care to be the best it can be to help them make the best possible start to life.

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07/07/2016 No Comments

Findings into poor care at Bristol Children’s Hospital highlight why families concerns can never be dismissed

Bristol Royal Hospital for Children

An investigation into Bristol Royal Hospital for Children has concluded that children receiving cardiac treatment were repeatedly given poor care and that parents were let down over a four year period – sparking a nationwide review of similar services.

The two-year inquiry examined the care of 27 children, including 11 who died between 2010 and 2014. At least seven children were treated on the same ward of the hospital.

Significantly, this review was not trigged by the hospital itself, or NHS bosses recognising failings which were causing serious risk.

It was triggered by the parents of four-year-old Sean Turner, who sadly died in March 2012, when they made their concerns public.

An inquest into Sean’s death had concluded that there had been lost opportunities in the little boy’s care, but that they did not amount to neglect. Believing the care provided after Sean underwent corrective heart surgery was substandard, his parents Steve and Yolanda turned to social media to tweet the NHS’s medical director Sir Bruce Keogh, urging him to ‘sort this out’.

Subsequently, a review has since taken place involving 237 families whose children were treated at the hospital, 50 meetings with members of staff, and the analysis of more than 6,000 documents from the Hospital Trust.

It has been reported that Mr Keogh met with seven families whose children either died or were left seriously ill following treatment in Bristol, and 27 families have been given individual reports over their children’s care.

Sean’s family have expressed disappointment, saying they still feel areas have been ‘whitewashed over’ and ‘ignored’.

However, they should today feel proud of what they have achieved.

The NHS is now to review standards in every children’s intensive care unit across the country. It is likely to identify more areas of underperformance and risk, which will have to be addressed and hopefully lead to fewer unexpected deaths of young people.

Hospitals must be held to account for failings in care causing serious risk

In our work as medical negligence specialists at Hudgell Solicitors, we are regularly contacted by family members who have been left bereft as a result of failings in basic medical and nursing care that has taken a loved one from them in a tragic and untimely manner.

It has often taken great courage for them to call us, mainly because we have such great faith in the NHS, which in the main, provides excellent standards of care.

However, we know and see the importance of holding medical trusts to account when serious errors are made, and not allowing them to be brushed under the carpet. This review highlights the importance or families being placed at the heart of the process, the need to listen to their concerns, and what patients’ families can achieve.

We hope this enquiry will significantly reduce the risk of neglect at the children’s cardiac services in Bristol for all those relying on its care – and at others across the country.

A number of families are said to be pursuing legal action against this Trust, a process which is never easy, but one which specialist firms such as ourselves are dedicated to helping families with.

We know they need answers for their loved ones, and that those answers can protect many more in the future.

Read the Review into Bristol Royal Hospital For Children

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30/06/2016 No Comments

National care home operator admits being at fault for death of 72-year-old dementia sufferer

Tony and kay

A national care home operator which looks after hundreds of elderly and vulnerable people across the country has admitted being at fault for the death of a resident at one of its homes after facing legal action.

Prime Life Ltd – which runs more than 50 care and nursing homes across the country – was the subject of a major investigation around care provided at its Wyton Abbey facility near Hull, East Yorkshire, following the deaths of two residents within 10 months of one another.

Now, a legal case around the care of one of those residents has seen the firm admit being responsible for the 72-year-old’s death.

The case was handled by legal care home claims specialists Hudgell Solicitors, who are currently campaigning for improved care services across the UK and calling for CCTV to be made compulsory in all care and residential homes.

The legal case surrounded the care of dementia sufferer Tony Dearnley, who died after being placed in the home for respite by his wife, when she took a two-week holiday from the daily demands of being his carer.

During that two weeks, Mr Dearnley suffered a series of falls, leaving him with bruises on his arm, left hip, forehead, and nose.

His condition deteriorated quickly, hardly eating or drinking, but despite his obvious decline, staff were alleged to have failed to take appropriate action, leading a coroner to conclude that he could have been saved had medical attention being sought earlier.

A Serious Case Review highlighted failings over a week-long period prior to Mr Dearnley’s death in July 2012, in which his condition ‘deteriorated rapidly’. The report said staff ‘did not appear to understand the seriousness of his condition and failed to respond on a number of different counts’.

Failings included;

  • No single person being responsible for the care of Mr Dearnley and a lack of coordination in his care.
  • Failing to contract a district nurse after his first fall – a decision which meant a GP was not contacted also.
  • Failing to seek medical assistance even though his behaviour changed significantly for four days.
  • Failing to inform a visiting district nurse that he’d suffered a number of falls, or contact a GP to monitor a head injury suffered in a fall.

The safeguarding report added: “There was a week when his health deteriorated and there was one safeguarding concern, but the home failed to call for any medical assistance. There appear to have been nine different staff members who recorded events relating to him, plus some that were not signed.”

When the home finally called paramedics on the day of his death, rapid response teams and ambulance teams reported that they found him appearing ‘neglected’ and being ‘critically ill’, with a strong odour and bedding needing changing.

They also found Mr Dearnley had a dislocated hip, and immediately suspected he was suffering from pneumonia. The safeguarding report also highlighted that Mr Dearnley hadn’t been eating or drinking for the previous fortnight, and was already in a ‘critical’ condition.

Staff were unable to provide any history about his medical condition, a fact which was later criticised by ambulance staff, and Mr Dearnley died three hours after arriving at Hull Royal Infirmary, from aspiration pneumonia.

The review also highlighted poor care provided to a man who died aged 65 at the home, having been a resident at Wyton Abbey for four months, whilst concerns were also raised over the care of a third resident due to the number of falls he suffered, and the management of his Alzheimer’s.

Mr Dearnley’s wife died during legal representations, but Prime Life Ltd recently agreed to pay £5,000 damages, as a result of the legal claim, to his estate. As he had no spouse or dependents, the amount of damages offered was at the lower end of the scale

Clinical negligence solicitor Hayley Collinson, of Hudgell Solicitors said: “Mr Dearnley’s care fell far short of the expected standard, with evidence that he was left in pain, unkempt, and treated with a lack of care or compassion over his lack of eating or drinking.

“His wife was unaware of her husband’s failing health, or that he wasn’t eating or drinking, and it must have been a huge shock to find him hours from death when she returned from her break.

“He had had several spells at Wyton Abbey to give his wife a break in caring from him, as he was suffering from dementia. To discover that he was being so badly neglected must have been devastating for his wife to discover, but by the time she knew how ill he was, it was tragically too late.

“This was an appalling case of neglect at every level, at a company which cares for hundreds of elderly people across the UK. Basic care standards were simply not met, and if they had been, Mr Dearnley’s untimely death would have been avoided.”

Hudgell Solicitors is currently campaigning for CCTV to be installed in all care homes across the UK to prevent cases of abuse and neglect and improve the commitment to providing quality care, ensuring the elderly and vulnerable are protected, respected, loved and cared for with dignity at all times. A petition to the Government now has more than 11,000 signatures.

Prime Life Ltd runs more than 50 care and residential homes across the UK, with its website saying ‘we specialise in providing a high quality standard of living tailored to our clients’ individual needs.’

At present, seven of its facilities have been rated as ‘requiring improvement’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), whilst two have been rated as ‘inadequate’ – Hamilton House & Mews in Catfield, Near Stalham, and Phoenix Park Care Village, in Scunthorpe.

Another of its East Yorkshire based homes, Westerlands Nursing Home, in Elloughton, was rated as requiring improvement when inspected in December 2015, and is currently being re-inspected to see if improvements have been made.

Wyton Abbey was closed in 2015 and was ‘archived’ on the Care Quality Commission website on May 8, 2015, having being de-registered by its owners.

Responding to the claim made regarding Mr Dearnley’s death, insurers acting on behalf of owners Prime Life Ltd wrote: “Upon consideration of both content of the Serious Case Summary and Coroner’s verdict, a viable defence to the allegations of neglect is unrealistic.”

inline cta

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18/05/2016 No Comments

Career insight: working as a solicitor

Students and graduates trying to build a career in law can often feel overwhelmed by the competition. We asked two of our solicitors to share their experience and advice for those hoping to work in the legal sector.

Hayley Collinson and Simon Wilson are both solicitors at Neil Hudgell. Simon acts as joint Head of Clinical Negligence, dealing with both medical and dental negligence claims. Similarly, Hayley Collinson is a solicitor from our clinical negligence team.

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30/06/2015 No Comments

Furness baby deaths call for national review

Pregnant woman in grey jumper | Stillbirths and neonatal deaths

Calls for a national review of maternity care are quite rightly being made in light of the ‘serious and shocking’ failings exposed at a UK hospital, leading to the avoidable deaths of 11 babies and a mother.

An investigation into Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust found a ‘lethal mix’ of 20 major failures in care from 2004 to 2013 at Furness General Hospital in Cumbria.

Dr Bill Kirkup, a former senior Department of Health official, who carried out the inquiry, not only strongly criticised the hospital, but also the overall NHS for the way it has monitored and regulated the major problems over a seven year period.

He says there was ‘significant organisational failure’ from the Care Quality Commission – the independent regulator of all health and social care services in England – leading to the Department of Health being ‘reliant on misleadingly optimistic assessments from regulators’.

Dr Kirkup also criticised The North West Health Authority and the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman for failing to take opportunities to bring the problems to light sooner.

In summary, he said there had been a “simultaneous failure of a great many systems at almost every level, from labour ward to the headquarters of national bodies”.

So, whilst some in maternity services may well try and suggest this is an isolated incident, this is clearly not the case.

Yes, there are many excellent maternity services and thousands of dedicated midwives across the country, who at times work miracles to ensure mothers and their babies come through difficult labours safely and successfully.

However, this case has highlighted very clear failings for action to be taken when things are going badly wrong, leading to the avoidable loss of life.

The organisations and departments responsible for upholding and maintaining high standards of care – and holding failing hospitals and services to account – are simply not doing their jobs.

Despite these failures at Furness General starting in 2004, and including a cluster of five major incidents in 2008, it was only in 2011 that the issues came to wider attention. Even then it was not through dedicated care quality organisations and bodies, but after strong criticism from a coroner following the death of new-born Joshua Titcombe.

He said midwives had repeatedly missed opportunities to spot and treat a serious infection, leading to the greater scrutiny of the hospital.

Another failing identified in Dr Kirkup’s report was poor working relationships and communication between doctors and midwives.

As specialists in medical negligence, we at Neil Hudgell Solicitors handle cases involving death in childbirth and babies sadly being delivered stillborn.

In many cases it is the failure to communicate – the most basic of requirements for quality care – which causes mistakes to be made.

I recently secured compensation for a client whose baby was sadly delivered stillborn after failings in her care. Despite experiencing reduced movements from her baby on numerous occasions during the final month of her pregnancy, and suffering a haemorrhage, she was still wrongly treated as ‘low-risk’ on the labour ward, mainly due to poor medical notes and a lack of communication at the hospital.

The hospital admitted her baby would have been saved had she been induced following the haemorrhage, and the mother, who was 18 at the time, felt midwives were dismissive of her concerns throughout her pregnancy.

This was something also felt by another client of our firm, who also lost her baby when doctors and midwives failed to check her blood results, which had been taken after the patient had haemorrhaged badly.

The hospital said the blood results had not been checked due to a ‘medical emergency’ on the ward, but admitted that had action been taken quicker in terms of performing an emergency caesarean section, the baby could have been saved.

Both cases highlight basic, avoidable failings, and a need for lessons to be learned.

Dr Kirkup makes 44 recommendations, including calling for a national review of maternity care and for the General Medical Council and

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to investigate the staff involved in care during the period, following his inquiry.
This sad case must be used to bring about major improvements nationally to maternity services – and the scrutiny they come under.

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03/03/2015 No Comments

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